Free Will(y)*

Posted by jlubans on November 21, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Homer’s Donut: Chosen or Destined?

A sad tale, for Thanksgiving week, about a failed friendship, all because of free will.
Free will ended your friendship?
Yes, my excommunication resulted from a freshman dorm-type discussion about free will between my friend (a professed socialist) and me (not a socialist).
Over beer (!), our normally friendly banter and camaraderie had deteriorated into a shouting match.
For the socialist, free will is anathema or so it seems. I mean how can one become subordinate to the state if you have free will?
Remember, the socialist state is superior to the individual, hence the state takes priority.
Never a particularly reflective person, I tossed off our overheated disagreement as regrettably stupid behavior.
My friend did not, as it became apparent several months later.
While on a trip to Poland, I took a photo
of a Frey Wille store and sent it to him with a punning joke.
You know, Free Willy (the movie), Frey Wille, a jewelry store, get it?
My joke fell flat.
My friend said, tersely, he did not get the joke.
Not long after, our friendship formally ended, kind of like the Latvian proverb, paraphrased “Once you've cut the bread (or donut), you cannot put it together again".
I guess my conviction there’s free will, crossed an invisible line. I was now one of the deplorables and as such unworthy of his or any socialist’s friendship.
Discussion closed.
Apart from any individual’s belief to the contrary, socialism cannot tolerate the idea of people having choice or individual volition. Remember, the individual is subordinate; others – believe me, they are there in the wings waiting their turn - will make decisions for us.
In socialism, even Homer’s relationship with donuts is pre-ordained; he has no choice, other than choosing between cinnamon or bacon or jelly.
We are all victims of fate or fortune.
In Soviet times, the bosses took away the individual’s right to choose. Do as we say, or else.
It’s still going on in Russia. Commenting on Britney Griner’s (the basketball player) labor camp imprisonment, a former inmate offers this advice,
"It's important to not forget yourself and not lose your freedom. Because this is what the system teaches you. They teach you how to forget your right to choose."
Well then, what does this have to do with the workplace?
The more choice the competent individual has, the better job she/he will do.
That’s been an enduring tenet of my management philosophy. And, regardless of working in a hierarchical or autocratic workplace, that’s how I’ve done my job, often with highly positive results.
Naturally, most managers want to be needed. Letting go, for many managers, is a sign of weakness. Some even claim that letting go will put them out of a job; as if leadership exists solely to supervise.
Back in 1958, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin claimed there were two kinds of liberty: negative and positive. Negative was freedom from obstacles and interference by others, in brief, freedom from control.
Positive freedom pertains to controlling your own destiny and shaping your life, freedom to control oneself.
Is not free will implicit in positive freedom?
In this current workplace milieu of quiet quitting, quiet firing and quiet restraint allowing competent/productive workers more positive freedom might be one way to enlarge upon a mutually beneficial relationship between boss and worker, between the personal and the professional.

*The movie, Free Willy, is about the relationship between a young boy and a captive killer whale, both separated from their natural families. The boy helps Willy, the whale, escape his captivity. It touches on free will, especially the boy’s choosing to help Willy break free. And, of course, Willy, wants nothing but to be free. Like most of us.

My book, Fables for Leaders, many of which exemplify free will, is available. Click on the image and order up!

And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle
© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

"Crickets*” and Sabotage

Posted by jlubans on November 10, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)


We’ve been hearing about the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting (QQ) and Firing (QF). Now we are told there’s a rival strategy: Quiet Restraint (QR).
According to one QR study, many employees are withholding information that might help a workmate or an organization. To quote:
“Over half (58%) of corporate workers say they are withholding knowledge that could benefit their co-workers.” And, “Gen Z is the top generation for untapped knowledge sharing; 77% of Gen Z'ers say they have more knowledge they could share at work.”
Back in 2015 I offered “Tips for Wrecking an Organization. Free!” which came from the wartime “Simple Sabotage Field Manual” produced by the US Office of Strategic Services (1944).
It was a guide for resisting/undercutting the bad guys, the invaders, like putting sand into a gear box, slashing tires of unguarded vehicles, or burning down a factory through surreptitious means.
The manual offers advice on doing what would nowadays be called QQ or QR, e.g.
“Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful
“Work slowly. Think out ways to increase the number of movements necessary on your job….”
The manual, in its “General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion” segment, anticipates our current employment milieu.
I wonder if the Quiet Quitters and Those of Quiet Restraint have been perusing (on company time, of course) the Sabotage Manual?
Of the 9 pointers these are the most apt:
1. “Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
3. Act stupid.
4. Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble. (Do the woke come to your mind?)
And if all else fails:
9. Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion, especially when
confronted by government clerks.
” (I’ll use that one the next time I am audited by the IRS.)
I doubt if the McKinsey consulting firm could top these strategies.
Obviously, we encounter some of these behaviors daily in any bureaucracy, but post-covid they apparently are no longer taboo.
What’s missing in the QQ write ups is that managers – if not themselves bought into QQ and QR – have these same strategies at their fingertips when quietly firing someone. Obfuscation has two sides to it – the employee is not the sole owner.
In my personal experience with Quiet Firing I got to see how it worked.
While not a life and death dilemma, it’s still a sneaky and insidious process. Mine included no longer being involved in decision-making and some removal of responsibilities including professional travel.
When I informed a colleague – who I thought was on “my side” – that I was still on the various work-related email lists and therefore getting the minutes and agenda from meetings I now no longer chaired, she said little.
But, not long after – in seemingly unseemly haste - my name disappeared from those email lists. Obviously, my former colleague had shifted loyalties. No longer was it “one for all”, now it was “one for one”
To survive, she chose to be a willing collaborator with the “other side”, if you will.
In life and death situations – generally not found in many offices - QQ and QR raise the personal risk level.
A recent WSJ article (“Russian Retreat in Ukraine Exposes Collaborators—and the Finger-Pointing Begins”) describes Ukrainian citizens collaborating with the Russian military in the town of Shevchenkove.
Only 35 miles from the Russian border, the town was occupied Feb. 24. Now liberated, the article provides an example of life and death QR. In the story, a former policeman was accused of collaboration. He admitted that he had indeed briefly joined the Russian-led police but only to steal the list of local hunters who owned rifles. As well, he had passed on intelligence to Ukrainian forces. The investigators dropped the charge.
Here's hoping copies of the Simple Sabotage manual - in Ukrainian – are in plentiful supply.
*THE CRICKETS (awkard silence) LET LOOSE.
My book, Fables for Leaders, full of self-management tips, is available. Click on the image and order up!

And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle
© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022